Lucknow: Waseem Rizvi, the former chairman of the Uttar Pradesh Shia Central Waqf Board, renounced Islam and converted to Hinduism Monday, taking the name Jitendra Narayan Singh Tyagi. It was Yati Narsinghanand Saraswati, the controversial chief priest of Ghaziabad’s Dasna Devi temple, who officiated the conversion.
In a statement, Rizvi also said that when he dies, his body should be cremated in keeping with Hindu customs — and that Narsinghanand should be the one to light his funeral pyre.
He added that Sanatan Dharma is the world’s first religion, and claimed that Islam was a “group” or “organisation”, but not a “religion”.
Rizvi, who has been involved in a number of religious controversies, also claimed he had converted to Hinduism after being “expelled” from Islam.
Swami Chakrapani Maharaj, national president of the Hindu Mahasabha, issued a statement saying, “We welcome the decision of Waseem Rizvi to accept Sanatan Dharma. Now no fanatic should dare to issue a fatwa against him. The central and state governments should provide him proper security.”
Mired in controversy
Rizvi has been involved in several controversies in the past. On 4 November, he released a book titled Muhammad at the Dasna Devi temple in Narsinghanand’s presence. He has gone on to claim that he was threatened over the book, which allegedly portrays the Prophet in a bad light.
Asaduddin Owaisi, president of the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen and Hyderabad MP, lodged an FIR against Rizvi on 17 November for allegedly hurting religious sentiments through “objectionable” content in the book.
Rizvi was also “threatened” after he filed a PIL in the Supreme Court in March this year seeking the removal of some allegedly violent verses from the Quran. The court rejected the petition.
A few weeks ago, Rizvi released a video in which he said that he feared for his life as several radical Islamic outfits had called for his beheading.
In 2019, he wrote and produced a controversial film, Ram ki Janmabhoomi.
Elected on SP ticket, once close to Azam Khan
Sources close to Rizvi told ThePrint that he is in touch with several Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders and may join the party, although a BJP official denied that there were any such plans.
Rizvi was formerly associated with the Samajwadi Party (SP). In 2000, he was elected corporator from the Kashmiri Mohalla ward of Lucknow’s Old City on an SP ticket.
In 2012, he was expelled from the SP for six years after falling out with Shia cleric Kalbe Jawad, who accused him of embezzlement. The Shia Waqf Board itself was dissolved after this, but was reinstated after Rizvi got relief from a court.
A source close to Rizvi said he had once been considered close to SP leader Azam Khan, but after the BJP came to power in Uttar Pradesh in 2017, he changed his stance on every issue and became a supporter of the Yogi Adityanath government.
(Edited by Rohan Manoj)